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Mandatory labelling of crop biotechnology-derived foods: the evidence shows this is a failed regulatory policy

Published on: 20th September 2022
Published By Graham Brookes

20 September 2022

Agricultural economist Graham Brookes warns that the practical experience of mandatory labelling of genetically modified (GM) food products on both sides of the Atlantic has resulted in reduced choice, increased food industry costs and higher prices for consumers.   

Proponents of mandatory labelling of foods containing or derived from genetically modified (GM) crops have long claimed that their primary objective is to facilitate informed consumer choice.  Based on a review of more than 20 years of evidence in countries or regions where mandatory GM labelling has been implemented, that policy has failed.  The main outcomes have been increased food industry costs across the supply chain, higher prices and reduced choice for consumers.  In contrast, in cases where labelling is voluntary, consumers and taxpayers have had more food choices with lower costs.

To the majority of consumers, labelling GM ingredients has been a ‘non issue’ for which they are incurring additional costs. The primary beneficiaries are the minority of consumers who wish to avoid products derived from GM technology as well as businesses in the production and supply chain of non-GM products who benefit from the price premiums and ancillary services like GM trace testing. 

The evidence is clear: compulsory GM product labelling is a case of ‘inconsistent and poor regulation leading to a poor outcome’.  Voluntary labelling initiatives are better able to deliver more informed consumer choice at a lower net cost to society.  Policymakers around the world should not repeat these mistakes when considering the issue of labelling for gene edited foods.  



Graham Brookes: 20th Sep 2022 11:33:00

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Despite the much-hyped expectation that Europe was on course to follow other parts of the world in removing GMO-style regulatory requirements from gene edited (GE) crops, with EU elections looming and no agreement in sight the bloc now risks slipping back towards precautionary inertia. Summarising their recent peer-reviewed paper exploring risk-appropriate regulation for gene editing, agricultural economists Graham Brookes and Stuart Smyth warn that we must learn the lessons from past experience of divergent international regulation of agricultural innovations. The impact of over-precautionary EU regulation of gene editing will not only disadvantage European agriculture, but will also compromise global efforts to address urgent climate, biodiversity and food security challenges, they argue.

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